Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Finding our Way

Dazed and confused.
In this world, which right now seems complex and chaotic, even disintegrating… many of us feel this way
Last week I used a poem from TS Eliot
I would like to read it again, because I think it describes this condition in a remarkable way.   Eliot wrote

The endless cycle of idea and action,  Endless invention, endless experiment
Bring knowledge of words, and ignorance of The Word
All our knowledge brings us near to our ignorance, All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God
Where is the life we have lost in the living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Besieged by information and knowledge
Besieged by choices

We know about that!  Did you know that Starbucks offers consumers up to 87,000 drink combinations? Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, offers up to 1,000 channels. Sirius offers 140 different satellite radio stations for your listening pleasure. 

Do you like your orange juice organic or regular, with or without calcium, or with minimal or maximal pulp?  And there are 400 types of bottled water.  How different can 400 types of bottle water be?  How about your toothpaste? Is it the herbal variety with added fluoride, the cavity-busting option with baking soda or the original formula with flavor crystals?  Think about it.  Even here in Wallowa County, and entire aisle at Safeway, nothing but potato chip choices.

And then we get to the really tough choices
About leaders. Choices for careers.  Relationship choices. Financial choices. Ethical choices. 

There so many voices ,coming at us from every side
Not just buy this.. but believe this.  Do this.  This is the way to success.  This is the way to happiness.  This is the way to God. These are American core values.  No, those are.
This creates mental, spiritual, and emotional chaos…

Muller, in his book “a life of being, having, and doing enough” says that we “lose our inner sense of what is the most nourishing or right action for us to take in this moment.  We gradually weaken the capacity of our inner thermostat to provide us with reliable, trustworthy information.”  In short we lose knowledge and wisdom in the midst of information overload.  We lose our vision of what life is meant to be all about.

Muller goes on to ask this question.  “When we envision our most beautifully perfect day, what do we dream about doing?  Who is with us, and what are the feelings or experiences we yearn for, how would we fill our day?”  Think about that for a moment.

He then notes, “most of us might describe essentially similar qualities in our one, sufficient day. We would speak of love, or of being loved, of being seen and known, appreciated for just who we are.”  And then he adds, “Perhaps we crave a sense of intrinsic value, knowing that we matter, that our lives, our work, our presence and companionship are important to others, to the world, perhaps even to God. “

But the point is this.  When we are confused, and overwhelmed, when we are drained, we tend to grab for whatever seems convenient in order to give ourselves ease, or fulfillment.  We do not choose wisely.  But we grab for substitutes.  Things that look “close enough”  For what Muller calls “quicker, easier version of love, satisfaction, sufficiency, or peace.

The problem is that the counterfeits don’t work.

Pride does not make us feel authentically important, but is a way of covering up our sense of deficit
Greed never leaves us feeling we have enough, we just want more
Lust cannot give us any feeling of being truly loved or cherished in our bodies and hearts. And often often ends up creating massive problems in our lives.

In short, these things are the wrong tools for the job.
Yet in America, perhaps in all the world, we have turned these unwise options into standard operating procedure.  Perhaps even into cultural values.  Think about it.  Is this not true?  We (America) are number one (pride).  You can have it all (Greed).  Sex sells (Lust)  I just want to be famous on TV (Envy). All you can eat! (Gluttony).  The world owes me (Sloth).  If any bad guys stand in my way, well bring it on (anger).

We constantly make choices based on this kind of thinking.  And when we are making these choices, and thus embracing values that don’t work, we are fast on the road to being people who are depleted.  Not just depleted.  Lost.

So what is the solution?  How do we move from being un-wise to wise?
In the Hebrew tradition there is a day called the Day of Atonement.  Or Teshuva.  This day invites self-examination, and a recommitment, in the context of God’s forgiveness, to a new, fresh, life.  Some scholars say that the word Teshuva can also mean “a return to clear seeing”.  I like that

So how do we return to “clear seeing”?  How do we sort through it all?  How do we choose what is right?  What will work, for us, for those we love?

We access the Spirit of truth.  Jesus in John 14 talks about the Spirit, the Helper, who will be in us and lead us into "all truth."  What we need to do is pay attention to the Spirit, which is “in here”, which dwells in us, and then we seek to make what Wayne Muller calls the “next right choice” 

Muller insists that each day we are confronted with choices, over and over again, each day.  These choices shape our moments, our days, our years.  The goal is to make the right choice.  The best choice!  But how do we do that?  When is that possible?  Only, he notes, when those choices are inspired by our deepest heart’s wisdom and authentic knowing.  I would suggest, that our hearts deepest wisdom comes when we are paying attention to the Spirit within.  When we allow God, through this Spirit, to inspire and guide us. 

This is the opposite of being driven by the externals.  All of those external cultural and organizational requirements and values, all those external demands, fears and coercions.  This is the opposite of just being reactive, and letting all those other things drive us.

Muller talks about this way of being, living moment by moment, listening to the spirit within, making one choice at a time, walking through life one step at a time this way.  “Our choices become small quiet intimate things that flow from us as water from a mountain spring, simple, endless, each thimble of water tumbling into the next, creating a small stream that somehow with neither map nor a plan, through surprising twists, while curving around unforeseen obstacles, somehow inevitably finds it way down the mountain to the sea”

In other words, moment by moment we follow the bread crumbs, and we get where God wants us to go.  But notice. The path is not straight.  There are twists and turns, and unforeseen obstacles.  Sometimes, we look way out there and decide where we think we should go, and create our own path, generally not a good idea.  Sometimes we make a choice that is not the best, and we start off on a wrong direction.  Thankfully God is creative and innovative.  And as we keep looking for the bread crumbs, with the help of that Spirit of truth, God will nudge us where we need to go. 

Sometimes we may get a little off the path, and just need a gentle nudge.  Sometimes we may get way off the path, and God may, as the innovator, may have to nudge us less gently…. Or God may even change destinations for us.  I think that’s possible.  Plan A becomes plan B (I think I am on Z5)

Sometimes, it is really confusing, because we have gotten ourselves in a place where it seems that there are only bad choices.  That there is no way forward.  But God can lead us to the least “bad”, least damaging choice, and soon we will be on our way again.

And again, and this is what is cool
Not just that God is placing the breadcrumbs
God is in us, directing our eyes, our thoughts, our being, to the breadcrumbs.  God is helping us pick that right next choice.

And this is all in the context of God’s amazing love.  His scandalous love.  God never gives up on us
Ever.  Its better than that, he never thinks of it that way.. God just loves us…period.  And works to help us find ourselves, and our path.  God is always there, or rather here, in side us.  Loving, prompting guiding.

I often say, when talking about the Bible… that the Spirit in us interfaces with the Spirit in the Word, and it comes alive.  If moves from being God’s word, to being  God’s word to us !!!

If we are willing to listen carefully to the voice of God, to the powerful influence of God’s Spirit in us, as it informs our heart, then we will interact with life in a new way. God will use life itself to speak to us.  And then we will find truth, wisdom.  We will find our path

And no matter how torturous that path may be at times, no matter how often we will seem to have hit a dead end.  No matter how often we hit spots where there seem to be not good choices,  God will love us.  And guide us.  And we will find our way to the sea
To that place of peace.
That is what this passage promises.  Peace
A sense of being who and what, and where we are supposed to be….

What an amazing gift, this peace
Because it means, that ultimately, as Jesus says over and over and over again
We do not have to be afraid!

We are not hopeless
We are not helpless
We are not trapped
We are not doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again
We are not defined by our failure….

Instead we can follow the breadcrumbs
We can let the Spirit of Truth show us the breadcrumbs of God
And, as Paul puts it…

Forget what is past, and press on, press on

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